|Love and Rockets: New Stories #6|
By Jaime Hernandez and Gilbert Hernandez
2013 has absolutely the year of Gilbert - between two Love and Rockets reprint collections, Julio's Day and Children of Palomar, and two new original graphic novels, Marble Season and the latest of his Lubaverse movie "adaptations" Maria M, Gilbert continues to cement his reputation as one of the most prolific and important voices in comics. No-one holds a candle to what he is able to accomplish year-in, year-out. Except for maybe Jaime, whose quantity of output doesn't come close to Gilbert's, but whose quality is nearly unmatched in comics.
Yeah, if someone put a gun to my head and told me to choose, I'm a Jaime guy, always have been. That isn't to discount Gilbert, but something about Jaime's stuff has always connected with me in a way that Gilbert's hasn't. But that's almost like being given two identical bars of platinum and being told to choose between the two. Or maybe ripping the baby in half with the bathwater (or something). Anyway, New Stories 6 is a great example of the strengths and differences in each creator's works.
Love and Rockets New Stories 6 is about family. With each brother always doing their own unconnected thing, it is rare to see a thematic commonality between their individual works, The obvious through-line in this year's volume between both creators' work is the unique relationship that adult siblings share. Your brother or sister will be the original and best frenemy you will ever have, and both Jaime and Gilbert play with that to different degrees in New Stories 6. I don't think the thematic overlap was a conscious decision between Los Bros, but a happy coincidence, and a natural extension of the stories each has been telling.
Far more accessible are Jaime's stories. Despite never really veering from the established narrative he has set up in his decades-running Locas cycle, Jaime still manages to produce superb, almost stand-alone narratives that are vital architectural components to a very large building. The focus this time around is away from Maggie and Ray, but considering the emotional wreckage that occurs in New Stories 4, this is not surprising. With New Stories 5, Jaime turned the focus over to the new character Tonta, sister to recurring character Vivian (frogmouth!). Angel, from God and Science, also plays a minor role, but the main characters are Tonta and her four mostly adult half-sisters and brother.
The first thing that jumps out about New Stories 6 is the sheer amount of short stories packed into the volume. Jaime alone uses 17 short chapters to tell his story (largely though variously titled Crimen, Spanish for Crime). But far from being interruptive, the vignettes that make up Crimen work to build an easily accessible larger narrative in intense bursts. As Jaime's story effortlessly glides forward, we are introduced and reintroduced to Tonta's extended clan of sisters from different misters (and a half-brother she never realized she had). Throughout Crimen, the siblings must come to a difficult decision to go after their own mother for the possible murder of their respective fathers, a decision that ignites a media firestorm and threatens to splinter each of their lives.
In Crimen, Jaime delivers a nearly stand-alone, accessible graphic novel about crime and brothers and sisters and the perils of memory and family, a beautiful, funny, fantastic work on par with everything else he has done. It's accessibility, especially compared to most of the intricately interconnected Locas run, is a happy accident.
But while Gilbert's stories are slightly more obtuse, he still manages to deliver one of the best short stories of the year. "Untitled" on page 59 is a stunning, visual feast of profanity and weirdness. No-one can do weird quite like Gilbert Hernandez, and sometimes you just need an injection of the bizarre into your life. Certainly Gilbert's weirdness can be overwhelming and is best served in small doses. "Untitled" presents just the right level of brevity and bizarreness.
Love and Rockets New Stories 6 is another great installment of the venerable anthology from Los Bros Hernandez. Love and Rockets continues to be a vital and important ongoing document of two creators at the absolute height of their powers, and the only venue to read new material from Jaime. The brothers' respective works, their respective worlds, stand alone - but in Love and Rockets we get the privilege of experiencing jolts of both, alternating between brother and brother, between greatness and greatness.
For my definitive guide on all things Love and Rockets, click here.